My husband offered me this analogy as I described feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“You feel like a container.”
He described what a container does:
It holds things.
It delivers things.
It keeps things together.
Containers are spaces for nourishment, growth, and possibility.
As I listened, I thought, “I am grateful to be a container. I am good at being a container.”
For me, my containing included listening, creating, nurturing, and joining parts.
It seemed such a privilege and one that I delighted in.
It also seemed like my calling.
And yet, the reason I was feeling yucky was that I realized that containers were discarded.
Beyond my utility, do people love me? Am I lovable if I am not useful?
Over the past 8-months, and since I had resigned from my position as The Director of a city-wide ministry, I found myself processing new emerging emotions.
For eight years, I breathed life and nurtured INSPIRE to carry out the mission of uniting Christian women together in heart and purpose.
The ministry had been fruitful.
Through the years of retreats and meetings, women formed small friend groups and deepened existing friend circles.
Hundreds of women showed up to worship together and be encouraged by God’s word and community.
Those who joined our leadership team considered it a privilege and delight.
Even a few members of my leadership team had formed close friendships that surpassed the space of INSPIRE.
The ministry was accomplishing its mission, yet why did I feel alone for so many years?
My thoughts about myself in relation to INSPIRE seemed only to be part of a more significant equation, as my ideas about other roles I had amplified these feelings.
I had teenagers now, and my role was shifting as a mom.
The strokes I received from little kids who thought I knew everything and loved me on my worst day, diminished as my children moved into healthy teenage cognitive and emotional development, which included questioning and not appreciating your parents.
With a new COVID lifestyle and teens who stayed up later, it became much more challenging to connect intimately as husband and wife.
All of these things contributed to the thoughts I was having that made me feel isolated, even among people.
As a mom, wife, business owner, neighbor, therapist, life coach, and friend, I found myself holding space for others.
Many relied on me for things they needed, yet I found I relied on very few.
Lately, I didn’t feel seen, appreciated, or loved.
I found myself becoming weary of all the space I was holding.
I didn’t feel inspirational.
I joked (before Rich came up with the container analogy) that I had a fake diagnosis PLLD: Post Leadership Loneliness Disorder.
What I was feeling is pretty standard when you hold space for teams, employees, and participants.
As a leader, you sometimes believe everyone else can drop the ball but you.
And not only can you not drop your balls, but you must also pick up the balls other’s drop.
The problem with holding space for others, if you don’t see that you have someone holding space for you, your arms get tired.
Although I found this container analogy comforting as it helped me find the words to what I was feeling, there was something that didn’t feel right.
The comparison seemed accurate, and yet it seemed to reveal a pretense I was living under.
I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I contained others’ things, and yet the only thing God called me to contain was His Spirit.
I think this is what we call preoccupation with self.
God had not called me to fix people, create things, solve problems, or get things done.
He had called me to be loved and to be a catalyst for his Spirit to flow.
That was it.
It wasn’t about me.
And when I got caught up in containing the wrong thing (anything but his Spirit), I began to block the flow of the Spirit.
God’s spirit is dynamic, moving, transformative, living, breathing, and powerful. Like a raging river, it flows endlessly, changing the space it passes through.
We do not hold space and contain the feelings, thoughts, or problems of people and organizations.
Yes, we can, but when we do, we grow weary.
I remembered as a child, praying, “Lord, make me a vessel.”
In my youth, I longed to be used by God.
I wanted to be in the middle of where he was working for His glory and honor.
And yet here I was feeling despondent because I was a disposable vessel.
Yet, isn’t that the gift God offers us?
He offers to fill us from the inside out.
We, who are fragile jars.
We, who are simply pots he formed.
He offers to fill us with Himself!
II Corinthians 4 informs us that we are jars of clay.
However, we do not contain people, problems, or matters of the flesh.
We do not hold space for organizations.
We do not bring things together or deliver results.
We are not even essential.
Had I forgotten?
As a container, my flesh is breakable, temporary, fleeting, unattractive, and unassuming.
What I contain as a believer and servant of Christ is the treasure of HIM.
This is good news!
I Corinthians 4, futher goes onto tell me that I am a container for his extraordinary power.
He pours out of me.
A broken vessel.
My flesh is disposable.
And that’s okay.
His glory is forever.
And my spirit will dwell with him forever!
His love for me is everlasting.
And it is enough.
It’s always about Him.
Never about me.
And so, I had to repent of “me-ism”: My desire to be a beautiful container adored and held in high regard, rather than delighting that I am a disposable vessel where God dwells.
For the past several weeks, I have moved from a place focusing on “my needs” and “loneliness” to a place of repentance and worship.
I thought all my giving over the years had left me feeling weary, when, in reality, it was my forgetting that the giver, creator, and healer was always and only the Lord, not me.
The problem wasn’t what I suspected. It was not that I had overlooked myself; instead, I relied too much on myself.
When our eyes are not entirely focused on Christ, it’s easy to see our brokenness rather than the extraordinary power we hold.
It is easy to think we are holding things together when the reality is, he is holding us together.
It is way more energizing to focus on Jesus than your contribution to the world.
As I repented and reoriented my perspective, I remembered Moses.
For the Israelites to prevail in the battle they were fighting, Moses could not lower his arms.
And yet this clay jar was growing physically weak.
And so Aaron and Hur came aside Moses and not only did they hold up his arms, they found a rock and placed it under him so he could sit.
Because we are broken, temporary, and fallible, we need others in our life that support us in our vision of lifting the name of Jesus.
Self-sufficiency and people-pleasing get in the way of this.
We need friends to come beside us and lift us when we feel weak and lose vision.
As I was suffering PLLD believing I was alone in carrying out my calling, I asked the Lord for help, and he brought a few faithful friends to step beside me and hold up my arms.
They even offered a rock for me to sit on.
And when they did, I kept my arms raised to heaven experiencing victory in my soul.
Getting my eyes off my weariness, and the equally broken vessels surrounding me, the power of the Holy Spirit began to rush through my weary spirit and body like a raging cleansing river of life.
I am a container.
However, this jar of clay contains an extraordinary power.